Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good riddance, 2008.

Will you or not agree that 2008 is easily one of the worst years in the recent memory? At least for us Malaysians. Here’s my take on the happenings in 2008, especially on local politics.

Aside: Humour impaired politicians reading this; I’d like to remind you that this is more of a satiric take on what happened so save your money on hiring lawyers. End of aside.

Malaysia

From January to March, we saw endless barrage of news on the impending victory of the Barisan Nasional party in the upcoming election in March. Most mainstream newspapers carried news that the alliance was 357% confident of the victory so much so that people switched to alternate media which sourced news from squirrels.

Of course, March came  and the general election saw a BN winning by a shocking small margin, and the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, led by Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s de facto de niro leader, Anwar Ibrahim, managed to wrest Penang, Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Singapore. While wrestling, the latter slipped and fell and managed to crawl to safety.

What’s more interesting about the election was the fact people were so angry with the ruling party they are willing to vote on anyone standing opposing BN, including an amateur cell phone cameraman and a dog named Boo.

But the biggest blow to the ruling party was the fact that among the losers were MIC president Samy Vellu, Gerakan then acting president Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Wanita Umno Deputy Chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. This embarrassed Samy Velu so much that he resigned from MIC as its president.

Gotcha! Not only he didn’t resign, he said he will stay as the president until others can pry his seat away “from my cold dead hands”.  After his passing, there will be an official definition for “spiritual leader”. Since he is still alive, he is embarking on rebranding exercise to entice more and more Indian members who hates his guts.

In the meantime, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir blamed Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for the ruling party’s less than stellar victory demanding his resignation. In fact, he blamed Abdullah for everything, including the bad coffee he had that morning.

While bickering continued on whom to be blamed for the defeat and Abdullah insisting that he will stay as a president “until I fulfill my promise to clean this country of dirty toilets”. The drama was heightened when PKR’s de facto di caprio leader Anwar Ibrahim announced that Pakatan Rakyat will take over the entire country on September 16, by peaceful means including transcendental meditation and yoga. However, he did not clarify which year. “It could be 1963, for all you know,” an insider was quoted as saying.

(It should be noted that Anwar was facing a fresh charge of committing unnatural sex against Monica Lewinsky during this period).

Considering the Sept 16 take over will involve defection of member of parliaments, BN members suspected that the culprit might be it’s very vocal component party People’s Progressive Party (PPP) because PPP’s members were dissatisfied with the abbreviation which, in Tamil, means, “Shit, shit, shit”.

When reminded that none of the PPP members won the election, the fingers (including the thumb) was pointed at Sabah and Sarawak which, for years, have been complaining of neglect.

Here’s an excerpt of an actual report taken from Bernama (Dec 27, 2008) and I am not kidding:

Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman of Sabah had even implied that they would not mind moving out from the "bungalow" (BN) and live in a terrace house (PR), as they were only allowed to "sleep near the toilet", even though there were "many rooms in the bungalow".

Threats of defection further elevated when Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) pulled out from the coalition costing BN of two MPs, four state seats and lifetime supply of Laksa Sarawak.

In July, Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah vacated her Permatang Pauh seat due to overdue rental pressure from landlord, paving way for her husband to sit on it, despite the fact that he had bad back, poor front and weak inside.

Of course, he won easily, and kept on mumbling, “We have the numbers” on possible defection come September 16. In fact, that is all he says when met by press prompting speculation that he might actually have the forecasted number for the next 4D or Toto lotteries.

Confronted with fear of defection, BN sent its MPs to Taiwan for tour on agriculture and “how to talk and behave in parliament as Taiwan has always been exemplary in this area”. This proved to be valuable trip as we discover later during parliament proceedings.  

September 16 came and when, with nothing happening except for some bad case of flue for this writer, but Anwar insisted that it will happen in a different date, “Probably in the near future or when hell freezes over”, not realizing that his party members have already started congratulating Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as future Prime Minister.

Yes, finally Abdullah relented and accepted his fate and started cleaning toilets in different floor. He will pass the mantle as PM to Najib next March and wowed that he will continue lavatory reforms…but not until after he cleans the one attached to his bedroom.

Yet, former premier Tun Dr. Mahathir still insisted that Abdullah step now. “What March? Step down now, today, this minute, this instant! Only after Abdullah steps down can we get better grade of coffee,” he said.

In the meantime, sources reported that Wan Azizah had made an urgent call to a doctor when she saw her husband sleepwalking and writing numbers on the wall mumbling, “We have the numbers”.

By the way, the JAKIM (Islamic Development Department) issued a Fatwa against Yoga, as it was against the teaching of Islam’s, since it “included elements of Hinduism, hints of Scientology and a sprinkle of voodoo-ism”. This will definitely hamper PKR de facto deVito leader’s attempt for peaceful takeover of the country.

On the economic front, the fuel price spiraled upwards, hitting the ceiling and the roof and later tumbled down, making consumers dizzy as the government increased the price of oetrol and diesel to the point where we had to sell our kidneys, and later decreased it to the point where the petrol kiosk owners have to sell their kidneys.

The economic crisis all over the world is apparently not hitting Malaysia. Both deputy prime minister and central bank governor assured that Malaysia is resilient and is crisis resistant. “Don’t worry, we will be alright. Next year should be good, and if there is any problem you can contact us in Switzerland,” an unnamed minister was quoted as saying.

In a more serious note, the year ended terribly for us when landslide occurred in Bukit Antarabangsa, claiming five lives and many homeless (some have still not returned to their home), only further asserting the notion that the government takes action only when lives are gone.


World

I can’t cover all, but two major happening occurred.

First, the year began with foul smell in the economic atmosphere as there were signs that USA is heading towards recession. “What recession?” the American economists said, “There ain’t no recession,” they added, not knowing that the sentence was a double negative, which means…

But months later, they came back and admitted that the country was in recession back in December 2007, “and we were already in deep shit then,”  “Really?” responded the international community sarcastically, “the sky is blue, and the crow is black, poodaa….”

But a major historical milestone was achieved in US when Barack Obama was elected as the president as this would be first time US, and this has never before happened, has a Klingon for president.

Interesting year so far. Hope the next one will be even more interesting. So, here’s wishing my blog visitors A HAPPY NEW YEAR. Take it easy on partying, you can get arrested.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Metal Health will drive you nuts!

Fans of hard rock & heavy/trash/speed/etc metal, beware! Head banging is dangerous. Or so, says an expert.

 

I was driving home last night, listening to BBC world over the radio, and the show featured an Australian associate professor, Andrew McIntosh, who said head banging not only can cause neck injury, headache and dizziness, but also brain damage.

 

Head banging is bad? In a song called Metal Health, by top notch heavy metal band, Quiet Row, the late vocalist Kevin DuBrow screams, “Bang your heeaaad! Metal health will drive you mad” That’s an instruction buddy, and you better bang your head.

 

I am typically not your head banger….well, more of head bobber.  I mean, we all do that right, bobbing head, but it could go wild depending on the tempo of the music, the harder the rock, or the speedier the metal. It’s especially not good when you are in the car, at the traffic light, waiting for it to go green.

 

Next lane driver’s wife           : Why is he bobbing his head so violently?

Next lane driver                     : I don’t know. Rehearsing oral sex perhaps.

Next lane driver’s wife           : I want to go home NOW!

 

Though, I am not into head banging, I empathise with head bangers. That is an immediate reaction to great metallic riffs, and thundering drums. How many of you did not even move your head a bit when the Brian May kicks in the big one in the middle of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – voted as the ultimate car song recently?

 

Speaking of car songs, how many of you have serious conflicts with your passenger with choice of radio stations or songs? I mean if you are driving, you have all the right…err…right?

 

Not so with my fiancée, Linda. The radio player hogging girl has control over it, and she hates my metal collection. Once, and this is unintentional coz the radio DJ must have dozed off, I was forced to listen to three Michael Bolton songs CONSECUTIVELY! Enough horror to make me Run To The Hills (Iron Maiden).

 

Now that, professor Andrew McIntosh, causes brain damage.

 

Aside: As a punishment, I made Linda listen to a Black Sabbath song, and warned her that next time it might be Slipknot. I know it’s cruel, but three Michael Boltons is torture of the worst kind. End of aside.

 

Alas, during the radio show, McIntosh cited Bohemian Rhapsody as one of the brain damaging songs. How could you Mac? Upon hearing it, I wanted to go to the Parliament and protest, and lodge a police report.

 

According to McIntosh, to avoid all those issues, compulsive head bangers can wear some sort of neck brace, to control the movement of the neck not to tilt to a dangerous level. Right. Imagine a rock concert with neck brace wearing head bangers.  Instead of throwing T-Shirts and underwear, the performers would soon be barraged by attack of the killer neck-braces the head bangers are getting rid off. In short, it won’t work.

 

McIntosh is also trying to get heavy metal bands to be the ambassadors of anti-head banging campaign.

 

Rock star: We’re gonna rock you, tonight. But before that, we have a public announcement to make, head banging is injurious to health…

Audience: Booooo…..

 

Marketing wise that would be suicide.

 

It’s funny that an associate professor from Australia should come up with this study. This, considering that he hails from the same country as one of the greatest hard rock/heavy metal act in the world, AC/DC. Yes, the same famous, wealthy, long living band that still forgets to buy its founder and lead guitarist, Angus Young, a longer pair of pants.

 

Another suggestion McIntosh came out with, and I am not frickin’ kidding here, is to alternate the heavy metal songs with softer ones. “You can listen to Spinal Tap, and then listen to Lionel Ritchie’s Hello. You can listen to (AC/DC’s) Highway To Hell and then, Fly Me To The Moon”.

 

Again, I am not joking. Imagine AC/DC belting out Highway To Hell, takes a break, and then Chairman of the Board, the Ole Blue Eyes himself takes the stage to fly you to the moon. In the crowd of head banging metal heads!

 

The final suggestion made me conclude that McIntosh is nuts. Not only that, he is dangerous to all hard rock/heavy metal fans in this world. I googled him and came with this and realized that he is not even a Heavy Metal fan.

 

Heavy metal fans of the world, let us unite. Let’s pool in some cash and get some professor to do a study that will conclude that listening to the likes of Bolton, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston not only turn your brain to scramble eggs, but also make you acquire all the tropical disease known to mankind and catkind.

 

Let’s start by writing the cheques to my name…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Goundamani: The Dark Superhero.

Warning: Strictly for Tamizh Film fans, especially of comedies.



Its phenomenal. About a decade ago, Tamizh film comedian Goundamani (or Kaundamani, or Koundermani) was dismissed by many has crude, crass and rude by many. He can only be enjoyed by those who don’t use their noodle all that much and enjoys slapstick.

Goundamani’s slapstick consist of only one thing – beating up his Hardy-esque partner. Senthil. If anyone really earns the literal meaning of sidekick, Senthil gets the honour.

Why phenomenal? Because of the growing interest as recently seen by the appreciative crowd, most of whom are in their early twenties here

Why, I myself have not been a great fan of his till of recent. Why the change of heart?

First and foremost, amidst all that kicking, and shouting on top of the lung, we missed to see the depth of his dialogues, the messages, and the not-so-subtle stab at the ridiculous aspect of the society and culture.

We neglected to appreciate Goundamani’s own original (he hardly mimics or spoofs other actor, strange for a contemporary comedian) brand of performance. His clear dialogue delivery, the modulation, the facial expression (the more he shows pain, the louder we laugh), body language, was there and I missed it first time around.

His graceless dancing, tone-deaf singing and terrible grasp of English language were supposed to be source of comedy (he is known to catch most of the Hollywood releases and recommends it to his colleagues). I didn’t laugh then, but now I am laughing my rear off.

I met a fellow member of the Tamizh film forum I visit, Prabhu Ram, who said, “To look at the slapstick element alone, you are missing the point,”. Truer words never spoken…at least it applies to Goundamani.

What astounded me, especially after revisiting those comedies is the amount of social commentary Goundamani included…also missed the first time around. So much so that the thread for his in the forum is named, “Philosopher Dr. Goundamani”, partly in jest, partly because, well, with all those satiric remarks that he tosses off without actually being smug about it (a crime Vivek sometimes commit).

Of late, something else occurred to me. That Goundamani could be the dark superhero for some of us. Yes, we all have good heart, we want to help the poor, the distressed, and we get thousands of super hero incarnation on screen. They are making millions out there in the box office.

But what about a fantasy creation that relates with the darker side of you. You know, the day to day annoyances, irritations that you have to deal with. Particularly people with the mental capacity of a hamster and is as annoying as that one immortal mosquito.

People like the characters Senthil played!

Watch those films again and figure out who was the annoyed one and who is the “annoyee”. Who was the provoked ones and who does the provoking? In Nattamai, why did Goundamani called his dad, played by Senthil, Dey Thagappa…extreme rudeness that had many fans of that time, even the faithful ones, put off? Watch that film again and you will realise what a rotten, womanising in a pathetic way Senthil’s character was. His action demanded no respect at all.

And how often we were subjected to the action of addressing someone with respect when we know that this person is rotten to the core. We had to do it, coz we have personal PR issue. Goundamani will do the name calling for you.

Admit it, there is a right-winger in even the most liberal of us. We want to dish out some painful insults to many annoying, irritating creatures that are teeming in this wonderful place call earth. Yes, especially the ones on the road.

Within the limits of given strict code of censorship, Gounder insults these bothersome creatures, kicks their butts (literally, instead of our whining of “I wish I could kick his butt), gets them in trouble. In one case, in indirect reference to what the bad guys did to a girl in the James Bond classic Goldfinger, Goundamani paints a less than beautiful male co-star with what I would call barrel belly with hot melting Silver! That’s for completely misinforming Goundamani the businessman and building his expectation sky high.

Most of Goundamani characters (mostly in the nineties) are remorseless, ruthless and relentlessly in pursuit of something and will not hesitate to insult and kick his way to achieve it. Witness the unconventional tricks he resorted to when he is determined to cancel the wedding in Ullathai Allithaa…and we get the heartiest laugh, especially when the plans fail. The “sotthulaa kallu” scene is boldly unconventional and elicits laughter from me anytime they show it again.

Tell me, can we be that insistent? Or consistent? We back out at early given embarrassment, but Goundamani hurls himself forward. We love him for it, plus he makes us laugh as a bonus point.

One forum member (Bala@crrajkumar) reminded me of one aspect of Goundamani’s character, “irreverence”. I’d add “total irreverence”, whether he is in a side comedy track or is next to the leading performers.

Speaking of which, I have yet to see any other comedians as bold as Goundamani when it comes criticising characters played by the biggest heroes. Witness Goundamani in Mannan and how easily he disses Rajini. Or how he teases Kamal in Singaravelan for his “latchiyam” or looking for “manastan” in Indian. Of course, the long “suffering” hero who has the best chemistry with Goundamani is Sathyaraj. The duos performance in riot-fest, Maaman Magal and Thai Maaman should have been given awards.

A rebel, an angry old man, a social critic, and now, a dark superhero, Goundamani is now set to make another round in the Tamizh film industry. Like or hate him, he has made his mark in the industry. He made all the other comedians that followed him dull after they run out of tricks. He is the ultimate superstar of the comedians.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Headlines and impressions.

There are those of us who read newspapers, and then there are those who don’t. There are those who read news online, either the mainstream ones or the alternatives, and then there are those who don’t either. The “don’t” type usually gets their news from text messages.

Anyway, those who do read either the physical paper or online, are bound to sometimes just scan headlines. I do too…not because I am in hurry or what…just plain laziness. So, what impression do they give? How much can a headline tell you? I decided to give my own interpretation from the headlines taken from The Star online:


Retrenchment ‘the last resort’

The government has identified a location, to be called, Retrenchment as last tourism resort if all tourism resorts in the country are closed down.

A spokesperson for the tourism ministry who refused to be identified but goes by the moniker groucho070 in illegal online forums, said Retrenchment will have “any goddamn thing you bl**dy tourists want, including spa that has fish eating your dirt or whatever”.

In a telephone interview, groucho070 said Retrenchment will also feature a water park complete with the Loch Ness monster in it. “Yes, Nessie will make its appearance. We haven’t got any confirmation from the Bigfoot though,” he said.

No further information was available when the phone line was disconnected after what appeared to be some sort of struggle over the other side of the line….


Tunku Imran resigns over Bruce Willis issue

Tunku Imran has resigned from the Petra group after being “fed up” with Bruce Willis.

“I mean, how many Die Hard film is he going to make” he said, reacting to a recent rumour that the Hollywood star may film a fifth instalment of the famous action franchise.

“And why was he bald in the fourth one. He had hair in the first three Die Hard films,” he said, adding that he will no longer watch any of Bruce Willis films and hoped that the Malaysian public will do the same…


Rear-seat dilemma for parents with four children

Not enough with global and local economic uncertainties, Malaysians are now faced with issue concerning the rear seat, especially for parents with four children.

According to parents with four children, rear seats in cars have been giving them many problems ever since the fourth child was born.

“How come parents with less or more than four children never have problems with rear seats,” asked Sam E. Velu, a father of two boys, a girl and specie yet to be identified by scientists.

Among the problems given by the rear seats include, refusal to seat the passengers, instant deflation causing springs to hurt the children’s rear and also constant cry for milk…


No decision yet on extending live telecast

The Information Ministry has not decided on extending the live telecast of the parliament’s proceeding.

A spokesperson said that it is already concerned with the content of the program which is described as “not only is one of the most boring show next to Teletubbies, but its content is lewd, gross and full of bad language.”

He added that the show might even be pushed to late night in order to not have children “exposed to that kind of language that a typical member of parliament tends to resort to during outbursts”.

“In fact, we are seriously considering 18SG rating for it,” he added….


Ampang Jaya OCPD shoots down claims

In what appears to be another security triumph, Ampang Jaya OCPD managed to shoot down “claims” that has been terrorising Ampang Jaya.

The “claims”, nick name for a monster made up of police reports made by politicians during the last few months rose when the stack of reports suddenly took a life of its own.

“After the March 8 election, every Tom, Dick and Harry politicians have been making police reports claiming thislah, and thatlah. That is what they claim; we don’t know what is happening actually,” said Inspector Ahmad “The one-eyed shooter” Khalid.

He said, somehow the reports got together, managed to get a life of its own and was terrorising Ampang Jaya residents, making threatening noises and even stealing a street corner Nasi Lemak vendor’s Nasi Lemak.

“The last act of terror was the reason why we decided to shoot it down,” said Ahmad…


Lifestyle Section.

Time to shop till you drop

There are times to shop, and then, there are times to shop till you drop. Find out what shopping experts opinion on the exact time to drop after shopping. Also, exact location to drop, as many shopping complex feature non-drop friendly floors…


Fish head curry, Chinese style

If you think only the Swahillians made fish head curry, think again. Fish head curry, Chinese style, goes back to the Ming dynasty when cooking was done on those famous vases. We talk to Chef Jockey Chan on how the curry has evolved and where it is living now…

Latest actor to portray Marvel's Punisher hopes third time is the charm

Nope. They will never learn.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Tastebud Evangelists.

Does KL food Suck?

Yes says a local member of the parliament. Bernama reported that Mohamad Abdul Aziz, MP for Sri Gading saying that he was disappointed with the quality and price of food in the federal capital, besides the taste not being authentic.

"If we eat nasi biryani, asam pedas, mee mamak or tomyam, we know how it should really taste,” the report quoted him.

"But I'm sorry to say that KLites have no discerning taste. They'll eat anything...even iron and stones...that's why the eatery operators take advantage of their poor taste buds," he said.

Haha! Before you guys rush over to the parliament and protest, let me assure you of something: He could have been the victim of The Tastebud Evangelists (TTE).

What or who are TTE, you may ask?

I have the right answer for you, pal (and gals). Its YOU! Yes, all of you, and me, and that cat that came to my dream (I cannot name it). We are all TTEs, and we have one time or another become the victim of TTEs.

This is how it normally begins. You having a casual conversation, and after discussing your favourite stars, your favourite gossip and your favourite insect (rhino beetle is cool), the conversation would then directly centre on favourite food.

And you’d say, “I am crazy about Asam Laksa. I always think about it. I dream about it. I lust for Assam Laksa all the time. I make my boyfriend go cuckoo and once almost killed him because he bought for me Laksa Johore which gives me depression”.

Despite the fact that you are a murderous person and the fact that you pals should avoid you like a plague, one of them would say, “You know what? I know the best one. One day I bring you to Kepong. It has the best Laksa in the country”.

Never mind the fact that that helpful pal probably only been to three states in the country, not counting Perlis which is basically a patch of padi field, some hills and a school with a squash court. He has become a TTE.

So, what would you do? You will heed to the suggestion and venture into the wilderness of Kepong and try the Laksa. Honestly, it would taste just like any other Laksa, and not any better than one from your own favourite Laksa joint and worst, it might even taste like sample taken from Klang River.

And your pal will look at you expectantly, and ask “So, what do you think?”

If you say, “well, its normal”, your pal may avoid you the rest of your life. If you say, “no it’s terrible”, chances of finding your body the next day may be remote. So, you will say, “Yes, I love it. Give me more. Give me, give me, give me…”

I used Kepong as an example due to tragedy that befallen me of late. I am going to marry a girl from there (no, that is not the tragedy); though she claims she is from Segambut. Also, it should be noted that area also borders Jinjang*.

One day, we went to her favourite hawker centre there, and I noticed a long queue stretching to the road in one of the makeshift stalls.

“That’s the famous Nasi Lemak. They say it’s very nice, just look at the queue,” Linda, my fiancée, said. I was tempted. But I should also have remembered that Linda does not eat Nasi Lemak. Come on, its evangelism from someone who does not even believe in it.

Like a moron, I ta-pau-ed (takeaway-ed) a pack of simple Nasi Lemak. (This as opposed to complex Nasi Lemak, which is served with Rendang, Sambal Sotong, fried chicken, caviar, pâté de foie gras or anything you fancy).

Back at home, I tried it. Needless to say, it tastes like many other Nasi Lemak I have tried in KL that has made me strike off Nasi Lemak temporarily from my favourite food list. I said temporarily because there is one place in Kampung Attap that could restore my confidence in Nasi Lemak and world peace.

To her credit, though, I actually stumbled into an excellent Assam Laksa in Kepung. She brought me there for different reason, but I saw this old lady in a small shabby store and somehow there seems something authentic about the prepared stuff for the dish. I tried it and it was great!

I will not divulge where this place is. Because, if I do, I’d become TTE and one of the worst thing happens when TTE-ism takes place is making the place popular. What’s wrong with that you may ask. When it gets popular, the owners will have to mass-produce their dish. And when they mass produce their dish, the original taste goes down the drain.

So, I implore you. Stop evangelising on places to get good food. Keep it to yourself. It should be a secret. Bring your pals there, if they compliment it, keep that pride to yourself. If they complain, call the gangsters from Jinjang.

Having said that, I urge you to try the Char Kuey Tiaw in SS2. Awesome!


*Remember Jinjang Joes? That makes her Jinjang Joey, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reduction Seduction

The news that the Indian Muslim (commonly known as Mamak restaurant here) restaurants are reducing the price of nasi kandar, the tari and roti canai came as a shock to me.

Because I was saying, “Naaaaahhhhh…..”

Why? Because way before the hike of petrol price, way before people started bitching about the rice of the food price, heck way before the comet wiped out dinosaurs and thousands of species excluding coackroch and Samy Velu, saying “cut throat” to describe food price in Indian Muslim restaurants would be too kind*.

But the report I read this morning made me smile. Not the, “ah…finally” smile, but “yeah, right smile”.

Written by journalist Lisa Goh, here’s the opening para (lead, as journos call it): Consumers in the Klang Valley have reason to smile - the prices of nasi kandar, teh tarik and roti canai are being reduced immediately.

Great….this was written under the impression that all the consumers in Klang Valley live on Nasi Kandar, the tarik and roti canai. We won’t smile if they reduce the prices of chapatti, thosai, fried kuey tiaw, claypot rice, laksa, and even Nasi Ayam. No, we won’t smile.

Next the report goes:
Nasi kandar will see a reduction of 20 sen a plate, while roti canai (and other roti items such as roti telur, roti pisang, etc) and teh tarik will see a reduction of 10 sen each.

Wow! Amazing, ain’t it. I can save 20 sen from my nasi kandar and 10 sen from teh tarik. Thirty sen saved in a day. I am so grateful. With thirty sen I can buy….I can buy…hang on…I am sure I can buy something with thirty sen that I saved by eating Nasi Kandar and drinking Teh tarik?

And these two food item and the drink are what has enough calorie, sugar and cholesterol to kill a dinosaur**

Let’s look at the following para in the report:

This is because the Muslim Restaurant Operators Association (Presma) and the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners’ Association (Primas) have decided to support the Government’s move on price reduction.

The fuel price went down three times…only now they are reducing the price? Are they joking.

Following that para is this:
However, the price reduction will be on a voluntary basis, and there is no fixed maximum price for these three food items.

Haha, they were joking after all. I was listening to the Bernama radio this morning, and someone was online with the radio presenters, saying that the restaurant he is in now has not reduced the price. Well, it was supposed to be voluntary, right? That’s only one restaurant, you say.

Nooooo…the news radio station then got in touch with Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) President Datuk Marimuthu who was also in a mamak restaurant.

Needless to say (Fomca must be really a very depressing place to work. I bet everyone is unhappy on daily basis just not to break that continuity), Marimuthu started ranting, saying the government shouldn’t be politicking. “Rakyat cannot take it anymore. Suddenly you announce this and that”.

Whoa! Take it easy, old man. It was not the government that made that announcement. That was from the restaurant organisations. Well, he probably had different issues in his mind…but the point is, he admitted that the restaurant he is in too has not reduced the price.

But Marimuthu had a point. Basically he is saying, we are moving on…it’s a reality food prices has gone up, but don’t keep feeding us all this tiny goodies..or what he refers to as “gimmicks”.

There is a bigger problem out there. There is a financial tsunami coming and the government tells us that “hey, the tide is calm…take it easy…we are resilient”. I am beginning to hate that word “resilient”. It used to be a great word, a strong word, a confident building word that self-help gurus drink everyday for their own eg. But now “resilient” sound repugnant, redundant, repulsive and revolting!

Sorry for the rant. Coming back to the issue, actually I shouldn’t be excited about the whole thing. The price reduction only applies to the members of the organisation. As one of its presiden said, it will start with 200 members in Klang Valley and soon will be adopted by all 4500 members nationwide.

The report goes on:
Asked if such a move would incur losses for the restaurant operators, he replied: “No, it will only lower our profit margin.”

Asked if there were plans to include more items for price reduction, he said: “Slowly.”

Finally, talk about honesty. Here is what I think will happen, after we get whacked left, right and centre by global economic turmoil, when we are taking a little breather, they will probably come up with an announcement saying that price of Sup Kambing will be reduced 15 sen. And we are supposed to be eternally grateful for that.


*I know you amateur historians want to strangle me for wrongly suggesting that Indian Muslim restaurants existed during the dinosaur era. But you will remember me one day when anthropologists discover that dinosaurs got extinct because of eating recycled fish curry! **Another plausible theory linking T-Rex, Mamak restaurant and extinction.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quantum of Solace: Review

Review of the latest Bond movie. Those who had not seen it, better don't read it now. It may have spoilers.

If CR is a legitimate standalone film, would QOS be Godfather II, or Star Wars: TESB? Well, sadly it would be Superman II…which is not bad, but not as good as the first.

Where do I start? Allow me to break it into elements that we normally would like to look out for in the Bond films.

Script.
Convoluted? Nope, pretty straight forward…a slight rehash of LTK, its padded with more action sequences that actually slows down the progress of the story…which is not that great either. Problem is, in CR they had great source material to work it and in QOS, they had to go back to cooking their own little dish. And this time, its revenge dish…not necessarily the first time in the films history. Not entirely original, since Fleming dealt with it in YOLT, and the filmmakers had earlier dealt with it in LTK (I am pretending that Brosnan Bond never happened, so to hell with TWINE etc).

Speaking of LTK, in QOS, M asks Bond to hand over the weapon, then Bond escapes by kicking the MI6 dudes, and jump over the balcony. Is that Déjà vu or the scriptwriters were just plain lazy.

So, you have a pretty so and so script to work with, and the problem is tossed to…

Direction
Forster did a good job, when the scenes are quiet, introspective, exploring a bit of Bond’s psyche. Marred by overlong and too frequent action scenes, this could have made a more intelligent film if there were more brainwork, instead of gunwork, involved in what could have been a wonderful sequel to CR. I hear Forster might return to Bond 23, so I hope he would pay more attention to the criticism on the action scenes, and help to come up with stronger, more intelligent film.

Action
Bourne? Before Greengrass there was Bruckheimer, Bay and West. At that time (90s seems far away now), the style was referred to as “MTV style of quick cutting and shooting”. Shaky cam included. And for you kids out there, go and watch The Rock, and you know what I mean.

And it’s the same feeling I get watching this film. Slam, bang, crashes, breaking of glasses (like one reviewer here said, too many glasses were broken during the making of this film), running, shooting, jumping, thumping, spinning (on the rope), explosions, fire, its all there. My fiancé was gripping my hand during those scenes. Alas, it was the grip that kept me on focus. I was not interested most of the time. I just wanted the quieter scene.

I never say this to anyone, but I want to say this to the editor: “You are wrong”. We care about what happens to Bond during this scene. We want to see him to know if he is in pain, if he is suffering, if he likes the killing or not, if he has moments of doubt, if he cares for his life or not…none of this can be seen during these action sequences. In between milliseconds you see grim, cold face of Bond’s doing his thang.

Music.
Contrary to popular belief, there is Bond theme interspersed throughout the film. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is Arnold is still one board. He has to go. His sound evokes irrepressible awful memories of the four Brosnan/Bonds (it happened…not it didn’t…it did…). This is a rebooted Bond. This is a different world. It’s like listening to Dmitri Tiomkin in a Clint Eastwood movie.

Take a bow Arnold. Maybe the producers are nice. Please don’t take advantage of other’s generosity. Move on.

And I don’t even want to talk about the turd that is the theme song. But then, there has been many animal faeces disguised as theme songs in the history of Bond films.


Characters.

Supporting.

Leiter and Mathis are a joy. It’s good to have them back…and yes, they could have longer screentime. I want to see Bond palling around with them a lot more. There are more fun with scenes of Bond with these two then all the action scenes of both CR and QOS combined. Almaric’s Greene is boring. When he stands on top of the balcony and gives that speech, you see Carver, you see Graves (Brosnan Bond did not happen…did not happen). The others were there, I don’t know. I don’t care. Gemma Atherton is total waste. Why was she there? Why was her character sent to bring Bond back? Why not some tough agents…like they did in LTK. Oh, the scriptwriters were probably scared that they are accused of stealing ideas from past. Too late, dudes….

Main characters.
Camille.
Boring. My fiancé said, for a Bond girl, she is pretty plain looking. Well, it didn’t bother me none. But she did not add to the movie. No glamour, no danger. Nothing.

M.
Dench’s M should go. She is incompetent, emotional, insecure, insipid, and basically an idiot (betrayed by agent working 8 years with her). One scene she asks Bond, “How come we didn’t know about this organisation”? I wanted Bond to say, “It’s because you are incredibly stupid, you old hag!”

Why does she have to tag around Bond, travelling all those places? Is she in charge of Bond only? Doesn’t she have other important task to do back in the office? Also, looking at her facial expression most of the time, is she suffering from internal haemorrhage? Also, instead of the pleasure of having a Bond girl in her bathroom, we have M in her bathroom this time. What is happening, dudes?

I understand Dench is known to be an excellent actress (I prefer others, I find Dench to be dull…but then incredible dullness have been mistaken for great performance, so its just a matter of opinion). So, dear producers give her a rest. Let M go and look after an orphanage or something. Get someone more professional. I don’t care if it’s a woman, man, transvestite or a fat orange Tabby.

Bond.

Ah…the glue. The one element that holds the whole movie together. Daniel Craig is James Bond. He owns the role now. Anyone out there claiming to be Bond should be arrested and made to watch all Brosnan Bond films over and over again (no, it did not happen).

HE brings dignity to the role. He brings nobility to the role. He is not exactly Fleming’s Bond. He need not be Fleming’s Bond. Dalton was Fleming’s Bond. Connery was the ultimate movie Bond. Craig now has the advantage of being both.

Forster and the scriptwriters committed a terrible crime by not allowing Bond to have more moments for himself. More moments to reveal himself to the audience. Why a crime? Because they are using a wonderful actor. But Craig made best use of what material he has…and he added to it. I don’t mind seeing him doing even mundane things like making coffee or explaining to his maid that his eggs must be boiled three and a half minutes. That would be more exciting than the badly cut car chase in the beginning.

I beg the producers to keep Craig for more movies. If he asks more money, pay him. If he asks for a small Latin America country, negotiate with the dictator and get it for him (the scriptwriters can help, they are pretty good with the dictator thingy). I am watching this film for Craig again.

And thanks to Craig, I am giving this film 6/10 rating.

Friday, October 31, 2008

When Kamal was Prince of Love

Kamal Haasan, a wonderful actor, has many titles conferred to him, either by authorities or fans. To me he is simply a good actor. But otherwise, he is also Padmashree Kamal Haasan, Aalwarpet Andavar, Super Actor and more recently, and most popularly Ulaga Nayagan (Global Hero…a title that is not sanctioned by United Nation, unfortunately).

But how many fans, especially the younger ones, know that he was once known as Kathal Ilavarasan (Prince of Love)…a sort of passing of mantle from Kathal Mannan (King of Love) Gemini Ganesan? Well, the type of roles he did those days gave way to that title. So, here I want to examine a little bit on Kamal in his Kathal Ilavarasan days.

As many of us now, then, he did many films with Sri Devi. We know he won the first national award for Mundram Pirai. Here he plays a teacher who falls in love with amnesia-ridden Sri Devi, only to lose her in the end as she recovers from the extended memory relapse.

His work was already exemplary before that, through Pathinaru Vayathinile. Here, he plays mentally challenged village bumpkin who falls in love with Sri Devi only to lose her in the end because he was jailed for killing Rajini.

Speaking of Rajini, Kamal appeared with him earlier in Mundru Mudichi in an extended guest role, in which he falls in love with Sri Devi only to lose her, because he gets indirectly killed by Rajini.

Death also plays a part in well essayed role in Vazhvey Maya, where he plays a playboy who sincerely falls in love with Sri Devi, only to lose her because this time its not Rajini but cancer which kills him.

More adventures with Sri Devi in Kalyanaraaman, where Kamal plays Kalyanam, a simple minded heir who falls in love with Sri Devi only to lose her because he gets killed by the bad guy. As a compensation, his brother, also played by Kamal gets Sri Devi, only to lose her later for reasons unknown as we learn from the sequel Jappanil Kalyanaraaman.

Both Kamal and Sri Devi was in one of the most disturbing psychological thriller of all time in Tamil film industry, Barathiraja’s Sigappu Rojjakkal. In it Kamal plays a schizophrenic rich man who falls in love and marries (phew) Sri Devi only to lose her in the end because, among others, he killed K. Bagyaraj.

Moving away from Sri Devi, Kamal appeared with Rajini in Ninaittaley Inikkum, in which he plays a singer who falls in love with Jaya Pradha, only to lose her in the end because Rajini kills her. Sorry, actually she dies of brain tumour.

Kamal appeared again with Rajini in Ilamai Unjaladugirathu, an epoch making youthful love story, where he falls in love with Sri Priya, only to lose her when he gets involved with another woman. Nobody gets killed here, but Rajini gets Sri Priya in the end.

Kamal was reunited with Jaya Pradha in the awesome and brilliant Salanggai Oli. In it, Kamal plays an amateur Baratha Natiyam dancer who falls in love with this muse, Jaya Pradha, only to lose her to Sarath Babu. Rajini was nowhere to be seen in this film though it should be noted that Rajini “lost” his sister to the same (yes, the same) Sarath Bahu in Mullum Malarum.

The whole Rajini factor ruining Kamal’s relationship actually started in Rajini’s first film itself. Apoorva Raganggal saw Kamal falling in love with Sri Vidhya only to lose her because Rajini has to die from Leukemia (go figure, its complex psychological situation).

Apoorva Raganggal was a K. Balachander’s (KB) film. KB was reunited with Kamal and Rajini in two follow-ups, Aval Oru Todarkathai and Avargal, where in those films Kamal falls in love with Sri Priya and Sujatha respectively only to lose them because it’s a KB film dammit!

Moving on from the black and white and low budget KB films to colour and location extravagance, Kamal acted with Rathi in bell bottom fest Ilamai Unjaladugirathu which proved indefinitely how much the measurement of the cuff of a bell bottom pants can indirectly influence the way Kamal dances. In this, he plays a rich businessman who falls in love with Rathi only to lose her….ah my memory. I think she dies hit by an asteroid. Can’t remember, getting old.

All these roles begs one question: Who in the right frame of mind ever thought of giving Kathal Ilavarasan title to Kamal? Thank god he moved on to be a good actor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dog Day Deepavali

I am a cat lover and had always been bar one incident involving clawing incident in the dark. But I forgave that cat long time ago. Plus it might be dead by now, and there is no greater sin then bearing grudge over a dead soul.

As much as I can, I had always been instrumental in promoting the act of loving cats, and at times accepting them as the only saviour of the human race if the whole world was annihilated by tragedies like asteroid attack, flooding caused by global warming or return of the pop culture icon like Vanilla Ice. I am also a staunch supporter of Cats Rights Action Forces (CatRAF), though the organisation has not been formed yet.

And I had always been a dog hater. In my life I had never ceased from cursing dogs, and even calling them names like – sorry for the vulgarity - “son of a bitch!”

But imagine my horror when I got back hometown early this week when I discovered my parents, yes, my own biological parents, adopted three puppies!!!

Or in my mom’s word, “No, no. They adopted us.”

You see, my parents are now in an estate owned by Atlas Ice Holdings Bhd. Yes, the same company that produces the ice cubes that you get in restaurants when you ask for Milo Ais, and you get about 80% ice cubes and about 20% hot Milo, which later melts the ice and your Milo Ais taste not much different from the drink your colleague is having, which is probably Air Suam.

That an ice cube producing company holds an oil palm plantation raises plenty of questions. What does palm oil has to do with ice cube? Hah! I can see a conspiracy theory coming, but I am too lazy to concoct one.

Well, as I said it’s a small estate, with population ratio of homo sapien and canis familiaris at 40:60. Yes, 40% human and the rest are dogs. Or at least that is what I feel considering the number of mutts hang around, like street gangs, near our house.

Anyway, during my last visit I got to hear that there was a pregnant female about to give birth. I left the next day, and it seems it gave birth to six little puppies. Three got killed along way (one was run over by tractors which is no faster than a steam roller…puzzles me about dog’s rapid response claim).

Somehow, they ended up (begging for food as usual) on my parent’s house porch. And my parents - their generosity knows no bound…I mean, really(!) – decided to feed them. And they stayed on.

Two of the puppies are female, not so subtly named Blackie and Brownie. From what I know dogs got no race issues, so Blackie is not derogatory for them. But the third, male, have a name that might confuse them – Chillu. For all you know in dog language Chillu can mean, “Booger head” or something.

And this Chillu character is very attached my parents. If my dad drives out to town, it will follow his car right up to the main road and when he comes back, he will rush forward and follows the car back to the house. It’s dangerous! I mean, dad could easily run the dog over and damage the car radiator.

Okay…okay…I was kidding. It could kill the poor defenceless puppy which shoulda know that running alongside the car is not exactly a walk in the park. Come to think of it, while walking in the park, you could be hit by a falling tree branch. So, running alongside a car is not exactly walk in the park with no trees.

And when dad gets off from the car, Chillu will be running around him restlessly. It now has to be petted and dad has to give it verbal assurance that he is not going away, that he still loves Chillu, and Chillu is a good puppy. Then, Chillu gives mock bites showing he is cool, and have calmed down!

I was enraged by this attention seeking behaviour. So, when opportune time came, I sat next to him and told him this: “Lookit here, boy. I am eldest here, Capish? Don’t give me this attention-seeking bullshit. I do that part. You just eat your dog food and catch robber or something.”

To which. Chillu promptly responded by licking its paw! I guess it inherited my rebellious streak (no, I don’t lick my paw)

Of course, out of respect for my parents’ decision, I did, like…, play with them and all. We also had some male bonding moments. When I pet Chillu, I came away with loads of sand in my palm. The dude’s been rolling in the sand when we repeatedly told him not to. That lovable ras…I mean, that annoying rascal!.

Whatever it is, my brother’s kid had good time with the puppies. Only time the puppies were missing was when my brother was playing firecrackers with the kids. Ha-ha! How do you describe scared dogs? It was fun watching them scampering around…from a safe distance myself of course. Heh.

Anyway, I guess you sometimes have to accept what happens to you in life. I may be a cat lover, but it doesn’t mean that I have to hate dogs for the rest of my life. Maybe the next few years, but these puppies, their antiques, the way my parents describe them like they are some adorable human kids…I don’t know. Maybe I might warm up to them…like I did during the bonding moments.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crappy Coffee

Disclaimer: This posting contains the use of the word “shit” sparingly. You will see the reason why I have to use it. Its highly disturbing and I shit you not.

To say that I used to be addicted to drinking coffee would be an understatement. I’d drink away six to eight mugs (yes mugs as opposed to jugs) of coffee a day! This was during the earlier of journalism when I thought I was the smartest person on earth because I can start a sentence with “Meanwhile, Muthuramalinggaswamigal said….”

Of course, I knew now that I was dumb then, just as I am now, with a difference! I have considerably cut down my coffee intake. So, adding to that, and after severe hair loss and weight gain, I am now only slightly smarter than Syed Hamid Albar.

What I am about to bring to your attention will shake you to your roots (unless you are not a tree)? The news is not new, by the way. I mean, I have left journalism and so, I need not have to be very current when it comes to news.

For example, I just found out that the first man on moon was not Edmund Hillary. I know, I know, laugh all you want. Of course, now I know that the first man to set foot on the moon was Syed Hamid Albar*.

Speaking of knowledge, do you realise how scientist are always changing their discoveries. I am, first and foremost, pro science. Secondly, I am pro cat, but that is an entirely different, serious, soul searching issue.

What irks me is this: One year, they tell you that coffee is safe to drink, and then another year they tell you that coffee is shit!

Which bring us to what I found out recently – Kopi Luwak.

Yes, this Indonesian coffee is made from beans picked up from civet cats dung which have ingested best coffee beans.

My question is this: Are civets cat? I mean, really? Like can you pet them, and do they nap all day long, beg…err…I mean, gets food served, and rub themselves against your ankle?

Okay, the real issue is: Does coffee from Indonesian civet cat poo exist? You betcha!

Here’s report from CNN, part of its list of world’s priciest food:

Civet coffee, aka kopi luwak Estimated price per pound: (US)$110 and up

This rare coffee has the dubious distinction of being consumed before the customer has even taken a sip. The palm civet, a cat-like animal also called a luwak, ingests fresh coffee cherries but doesn't digest the beans inside. After the beans pass through the civet's digestive system, workers collect them and wash them in spring water. Supposedly, the civet's digestive enzymes make the beans less acidic, improving the coffee's flavour.

See….and people are paying up to US$100 for it. Yes, people bitch about rising fuel price and food cost, but there are some who don’t mind paying a lot for exotic things. Yeah, exotic. Here’s the next paragraph in that report:

Peter Longo, owner of New York City's Porto Rico Importing Co., is drawn to all things exotic and novel, so when he first heard about civet coffee, he knew it would be perfect for his store: "It was right up my alley - such an odd and unique thing."

Well, Locco, I mean, Longo, what is odd and unique about coffee bean discovered in civet’s poo! That’s not exotic. That is shit, literally.

The next paragraph quotes Longo:

"It's actually mild and smooth, with a piquant aftertaste," Longo says. "It's very good, as long as you don't let your imagination get the better of you."

Few years down the road, I can imagine, there will be bunch of coffee lovers at coffee tasting session with that day’s specialty on Civet Poo Coffee.

Critic A: Great, it’s smooth, with excellent finish. Almost smoky.
Critic B: Ah, it must be the forest fire in Indonesia, must have scared the shit out of the civets.
Critic A: Excellent analysis!

Oh, the humanity! What has the world come too where people can drink coffee from treated animal poo? I mean, have you ever heard of drinking water treated from sewage? What did you say? What Singapore? Oh. Well.

Aside: Oh my, I should be careful with my comments, or I’d be condemned by Civet Poo Coffee Bean Coffee Drinkers, Fans and Supporters (CPCBCDFS, try saying this ten times). End of aside.

Well…considering my good relationship with non-governmental organisations like WWF and PETA…I have only this to say: Civet Cat Poo Coffee is the best thing that has ever happen to the world.

I mean, not only it promotes healthy coffee bean eating habit for the Civets, the animal will no longer be killed senselessly like other endangered specie…until it start developing digestion problem of course.

Other than that, Civet cats are great noble creatures that deserve extra attention for shitty reason. People who have killed civets are basically defecating on the future of specie survival. I better stop before I start making crappier “shit” related puns.

*kidding. The first man to set foot on moon was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was immediately detained under Internal Security Act by Home Affairs minister Neil Armstrong for posing great threat to moon dwellers.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Public Transportation Zombies

Aside: The production of Batam pt 4: I Never Planned For Part Four has been postponed indefinitely due to budgetary problem and poor response from Pt 3. The producer regrets to inform that plans for further sequels and animated TV series too has to be shelved. End of aside.

Hang on. Aside again: This blog will be the first time I attempt something on horror. Yes, this is scary. It is happening in Malaysia, in the worlds only city that consumers greatest amount of Roti Canai and Nasi Lemak, Kuala Lumpur! Be afraid. Be very afraid, and while you are at it, you have something sticking on your nostril. End of aside

Today I am going to talk about public transportation. Yes, we all know how much public transportation in Malaysia suck, blah, blah, blah. It’s not exactly what I am going to talk about. Okay, it is what I am going to talk about except it is not going to be the subject that I am going to talk about. Hang on…what I meant was…

I have gone as cuckoo just like our public transportation system. The point is the current realm is such that it is beginning defining who we are or has become. I tell you why…

I have changed job, and my new place is right smack in the middle of city centre. I am no longer a journalist. As you all know journalists enjoy great time flexibilities, which mean I could still be sleeping in my warm bed when you guys are in a meeting attempting to postpone yet another plan.

Yessireebob, my days of journalist have ended, when I accepted the job of editor for the marketing department of Jobsdb.com recently. It is going to be a highly corporate environment, which means strict 9 to 6 routine and one hour lunch. In my journalist days, our lunch hour is subjective and has no precise definition. It is either a quick 15 minutes munch, or can last as long as parliament session if nobody has assignment on that day, especially when I have craving for that anuty’s Char Kuey Tiaw in SS2.

Now, driving to work is out of question. Jalan Kuching, which I have to use, is not traffic friendly from 7 to 9 in the morning. You want to challenge me on that notion? Well, try talking to drivers using Jalan Kuching at that time. See how friendly they are!

You see, traffic hardly moves that time. Try it, next thing you know you’d be Michael Douglas from that film Falling Down. Jalan Kuching is becoming Federal Highway pt 2 as best place to experience traffic jam, if you like that sort of thing. You do, don’t you?

So, to avoid that godforsaken road, one option I had in my mind was to drive to Taman Melati, Gombak, and take the LRT from there to KLCC. Cool, I thought. Back to my old public transportation days, where I could use the time sitting in the bus or train to read a book, or take a short nap with my head rolling all over the place and freak the other passengers out making them think that I have gotten into trance while sleeping.

Anyway, plan was afoot and I told myself, “dey, ditch late morning habits. Time to move on. Turn over a new leaf. Bake a new bread. Dig a new grave, etc” and motivated myself to wake up early the next day.

With much difficulty I did get up early, around 6.30 am, and crawled myself to the bathroom. It has been a long time since I got up that early, that in all the blurriness and that strange mystical sound that could be the sound of my bed calling me back, I almost brushed my face, and shaved my teeth.

Only when I stepped out of the apartment, that I suddenly got conscious and told myself, “dey, you have to drive, so wake up a**hole! (I revert to namecalling a lot these days…must stop listening to the parliament sessions).

I got to Taman Melati in short time, which I did while laughing mockingly when I passed vehicles in Jalan Kucing below the Outer Ring Road roundabout that were moving as fast as legless coachroaches. Woohooo!

All the joy ended when I saw the queue waiting for the Putra light rapid transit. There were about four queues stretching all the way to the escalator at the door opening point. I suddenly remembered my fiancé, Linda’s complain, the things she had to face in her daily commuting (she uses KTM commuter). But since she also complains about my singing (my take on Jim Morrison is a must) and cats generally, I chose to ignore her complaint.

But here I was, in same situation. I can now relate to Linda’s complain (“Hah! Padam muka!” is the kindest words she could offer to my current predicament)

So, the train came in five minutes time, but I was in for another shock! Yes, Prime Minister Pak Lah was in it!!

Hahaha. I am pulling your leg (don’t worry, you still have seven left). One trip in KTM Kommuter was enough to convince Pak Lah to reconsider date of power transition (my personal theory, don’t put me in ISA please). I don’t think he would ever want to use our public transportation again!

No, the shock was to see that the train was already crowded. You see, this station is the last, but dudes and gals from stations preceding already got into it, so that they will have seats or comfortable places to stand when the train reverses its journey.

And when the door opened, a miracle happened! Without using an inch of effort, I found myself in the train. Amazing!

How? The force of course. The force put me there. No, I am not talking about “Luke, use the force” force here. I am talking about the other passengers who pushed me, who themselves were pushed. That put me in the train; in a space that you can’t even swing Jerry the mouse. There goes my plan to read a book. Talk about first priorities between reading a book and swinging Jerry the mouse. Phew, that’s tough.

But here is the scary part: the passengers. As the train moved, lolling and bobbing over the track, the passenger, and I am not making this up, were just there still, taking the lolls, the bobs, the bumps and the thumps, their eyes empty as a vacant lot, the expression as still as cave painting and with apparent care for fellow passengers as cats would with spinach.

They have become zombies! That’s what I see. All they need is a bit of ugly make up and torn and shred clothes and they can be used to do a sequel to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

Every morning I take train to work I see them, though the faces are different. Amazing. What is happening to my fellow dwellers of Klang Valley?

It is not that I am belittling them (now, including me, it’s us). It’s that inept public transportation is making us to become like this. I urge the government to do something about it or face the grim future of zombies roaming all over the country looking to cram inside every available mode of public transports!!!!

I can already feel it. I am becoming one of them! I am now already a public transportation using, The Sun newspaper reading public Joe….the only consolation being, my name is not Joe. Sigh. Gad, I can feel numbness in my face already. Heeeeeeeelp!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman.

The death of Paul Newman was not shocking. We all knew that he was dying of cancer when reports came out months ago. It was just a matter of time, and that time came last weekend.

There will be talk about what a great man, finest human being, etc about him. But how many would rate him as one of the best screen actor ever in Hollywood? I mean, right up there with Marlon Brando and Spencer Tracy.

Newman performance was a bridge between the classic “get out and do it” classic acting and “breath and live the character” method acting. He also belongs to the class of actors who “appear to be doing nothing but exuding everything”.

The other day I was watching Harper, a nice little private eye movie. Nothing to shout about. It was the first screenplay to be produced for my scriptwriting guru, William Goldman. It could have easily been a bad TV private eye episode, but Newman made something entirely priceless out of it merely through his performance.

That he can bring more to the table is the quality that is sorely missed in most of the performance these days. He does not indulge in heavy make up, get up or severe alterations to his body language. He would just be Paul Newman and those many characters he help to create with the directors and screenwriters he worked with.

How would that be possible? Only Newman knows. It is a magic, a secret that he will carry to the great big screen beyond.

I have nothing more to add. I don’t want to mourn. I want to celebrate his work by continuing to appreciate and spread words about this great screen performer and philanthroper .

And for that I, being one of the millions of fans around the world, would like to thank you, Mr. Newman. For your works, Mr. Newman, did not had failure in communicating with us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Batam pt 3: Revenge of the African Cheesecake.

Recap from my previous blog, Batam Pt2: The cabbie speaketh.

Planet 9 From Outer Space… Agent ZOR985XZ2…Bermuda Triangle…Urine…Perfume…missing Ewok.


Aside: This part may contain materials, facts and information that may deem offensive to certain quarters, namely lovers of dogs (or freaks) or supporters of Jerry the mouse. And it has nothing to do whatsoever to African cheesecake, which till today remains a mysterious entity, like Bigfoot. Its use as title is purely coincidental and meant to sensationalise the otherwise dull blog entry. End of aside.


And there we were, waiting for the ferry. I was feeling sleepy and still managed to strike conversation with Zeff and the Star reporter. Soon, we were to board the ferry and no untoward accident like falling off the platform occurred.

Why I said that? Well, the last time I boarded a ferry, a large number of us would have been in the water. And me, being of cat nature, is afraid of water. I shower twice a day and drink shitload of coffee and that’s as far as the intimate involvement with water goes. Otherwise, I hate to be in the sea or swimming pool.

This bad ferry moment happened when the family decided to visit Pulau Ketam (off Port Klang) recently. The platform was bare cement with splashed mud and trash, and there was nothing between the ferry and platform. And most Malaysians being kind, considerate and ever patient, lined up in a long queue and helped each other to board the ferry.

Haha! I was kidding of course. When the ferry was ready to be boarded, I found myself desperately trying to make sure that my mother did not slip when boarding, and she was she was making sure that a little grandnephew of hers did not get trapped between the ferry and the platform and find his way to the sea. It was chaotic.

But here, the boarding process was smooth like boarding a plane. And we found a nice corner to seat and soon we were off to Batam. As soon as I sat, I slept like a baby. Okay, babies nowadays are poor sleepers themselves, so I slept like a log. Hang on, do logs sleep. I mean, when they are cut they are, like, dead right? So, I slept like a cat…which does an awful lot of sleeping and napping. In fact the term cat-napping came….

Okay, okay, I’ll get on with the story.

We reached Batam after an hour an a half, roughly, and found ourselves in the immigration centre that is about as big as my old school cafeteria. One of the immigration officer suddenly made noise about visa, and the matter was quickly resolved when the guard on watch overpowered and handcuffed him, before bringing him to an interrogation room and beat him up with a rubber hose and Indonesian phone book.

Haha, just a little violence scene to wake you up. No, nothing like that happen. As I learned from previous trips to Jakarta, Indonesians are generally very friendly people, and somewhat very genuine. I can’t say the same about Malaysian immigration, because we use autopass for our passport when they are usually nowhere to be seen at the “Nothing to declare” exit.

A feeder van to Holliday Villa waited for us, and we were in the hotel in five minutes. We got ourselves rooms, and mine was at the ninth floor. We had about three and a half hours to kill before the dinner, planned at 6.30 pm (7.30pm our time). We were away from the town, and it was a long walk to the beach, so I thought of the best thing to do at times like this – sleep.

The hotel room was big. You can have a family living there comfortably. Of course, you will be paying through your nose or any other convenient orifice for that. The bed is perfect for a cabinet minister to have his nocturnal romp and the architecture is not complex enough for CCTV cameras.

I did my TV channel flipping and napped a bit and showered and got ready for dinner. At the lobby Zeff and the star Reporter waited for us. The girls were nowhere to be seen. Zeff offered several options for dinner and we settled for the best - dinner in the hotel and then we go out.

Apparently the most famous shopping spot in Batam is called Nagoya. Considering Singapore’s influence there, shouldn’t it be called something like New Changi or San Woodlands? Nagoya….hmmm…what awaits us there? But first, our first meal in Batam….(to be continued)


Watch out for Batam Ahoy Pt 4: I Never Planned For Part Four.

P.S. I swear, this just keep getting bigger and bigger and one day I am going to look at an empty Word file and my brain will quietly make its descent through my ears and find its way to the lavatory. Ah, the pressure and stress a writer endures.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Batam Ahoy pt 2: The Cabbie Speaketh.


Recap of the last blog:


Pua Chu Kang….Batam…Jar-Jar Binks…piles…Led Zeppelin…cheeseburger (double)…cabbie.


As mentioned, the cab driver was a polite guy. Here is the thing about the cab drivers in Singapore: They are as polite as heck. Can you believe it?


In Malaysia, you have to tell them where you are going first and chances are they are not going there. Name any place, including Planet 9 From Outer Space and chances are he’d say, “Nolah, not going that direction”, unless you offer him a bigger fare, your savings accounts and three cows.


I am generalising of course. There are many friendly cab drivers in Malaysia, and I have a neighbour who is one, and who has been useful in my days of no personal transportation. Plus he already owns three cows. Kidding.


Anyway, the point is, Singaporean cab drivers are very polite. All of them speak English and they are more than willing to talk about the country, and if you are Malaysian, say that “hey, I have been to Malaysia. I go to JB every month,”. That’s the sad truth, quite a number of Singaporeans have made it only up to Johore Bahru.


Or so, I thought until I saw the number of Singaporean cars zooming past me in the north south Highway, in no less than 150kmph .


Coming back to my story, the cab driver, let’s call him Ismail (real name Agent ZOR985XZ2) asked if we were going to Batam, and I said yes and asked if he had been there.


“If pakcik (referring to himself, not his uncle) go there, makcik will not like it. In fact, I will not be seeing makcik again,” he said.


Of course, he does not mean that Batam island is some kind of Bermuda Triangle-like place, though there is some points in that “disappearing” acts some Singaporeans perform from time to time.


What he meant, and what I understood having lived there for five years, is that the place is where many Singaporean men see as haven. Yes, in Batam you get good food, finally.


Okay, it’s more than that. In Batam, you get women. Both for personal or professional use. I mean, prostitutes services to pay for or gals to marry. What Ismail talked about was a growing social concern in Singapore when I moved to Malaysia back in year 2000.


There has been dissatisfaction amongst Singaporean women that men are frequenting Batam for two main reasons: sex for pleasure and sex for lifetime of ball and chain. Men were marrying Batam gals and were buying houses there to settle down once they are able to retire (In Singapore such thing is possible: retirement I mean). That this issue has any relation with growing number of single women in singapore is purely coincidental, I must say. Right?


Ismail also added that Batam is what Singapore is not. It is not the place where you work your ass off. It is not the place where women are as complex as the jigsaw puzzle you never get to finish.


Indeed, it is a place where restaurants with great seafood means the priest read the last rites to the fishes only minutes ago.


Yes, they say seafood in Batam is fresh as vegetable is in Cameron Highland as Malaysians know. In fact, that was the main attraction for me to accept this difficult challenging, life threatening media trip of visiting oil rig.


Ismail’s point is this: If a number of Singaporeans, especially men, are still healthy and not dropping like flies for stress induced diseases, its because places like Batam (and JB, I think).


Of course, the conversation continued to Malaysian and onwards (and whoa this is sooo shocking!) to Malaysian politics. There are stuff discussed and since bloggers get prosecuted and middle finger is shown to freedom of expressing your opinion in the blogsphere, I shall write it down with invisible ink (urine) and feed it to my cat.


Chances are the cat will spit it back at me. Come to think of it, I don’t have a cat. Phew!


In less than half an hour (any which way in Singapore you take less than half an hour if traffic is good. There is joke about driving in Singapore - “you don’t have to use the fourth gear”) we were in Harbour Front, a shopping complex/ ferry station/ immigration for ferry passengers/ free toilet service centre.


The place was as busy as any new shopping mall would be, and it has everything a mall has, including shoppers, aimlessly wandering loiterers and sales assistant who’d jump out of nowhere and offer to spray you with perfume. What cruelty!


One elevator ride up and we were at the counters selling ferry tickets. Tickets arrangement was done by Zeff (remember Zeff? You don’t? What’s the matter with you? How can you? Zeff is the Jedi master sent to assist Anakin to rescue a missing Ewok who last seen trying to kill George Lucas for not reviving them on big screen).


Soon, we were in the business of waiting for the ferry. So, we waited, and waited, and waited……(to be continued).


Watch out for Batam Ahoy Pt3: (working title) Revenge of the African Cheesecake.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Batam Ahoy pt 1.

Long, long time ago, in a galaxy, like, across the causeway, I was involved in a brief but insightful course on TV scriptwriting, with emphasis on situation comedy, which is usually referred to as TV sitcom, or, force-audience-to-laugh-with-canned-laughter-gag-series.


It was the late nineties and the land was the Island of the Republic of Singapore. Times were different then. The country’s prime minister was Goh Chok Tong, though the real man behind the scene was still Harry Lee Kuan Yew, the then senior minister. Of course, things have changed now, the prime minister is Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong, and the man behind the scene is….err, never mind.


The assignment given to us trainees at the end of the course was to write a Pua Chu Kang Pte Ltd script. The still popular Singapore made sitcom is known to all of us, having been popular in Malaysia as well, and at that time it was probably in its peak. And one of the lead character, Pua Chu Kang (played brilliantly by Gurmit Singh) has this memorable used-till-death line, “Best in Singapore, JB, and some say, Batam”.


That , dear blog visitors, today’s subject is Batam


Blog visitors: and it took you three paragraph to get to that, you piece of cat booger. And you have to bring us back to the nineties for that! Why, we are now having memories of short lived boy bands, that stupid Tarzan and Jane song, Spice Girls, Baggio’s missed penalty, Jar-Jar Binks, Hello Kitty, noooooooooooooo!!!!


Okay, take it easy. The point is this: Batam was popular amongst Singaporean. I did not have many friends then, so I knew little about Batam Island, except that it belongs to Indonesia and most Singaporean behave as if it is theirs.


Well, moving on, I returned to Malaysia, and grew up to be a full fledged healthy journalist with sinusitis, light asthma, gastritis, occasional knee problem, piles and expanding forehead that should soon rival Phil Collins in due time.


And I had the opportunity to go to Batam this Monday. And I thought, hey, let’s find out what Pua Chu Kang does there.


I did hear a few things, but as usual realiable information came in form of a cabbie. Yes, those wonderful talkative taxi drivers. Go to any country, and even when you and the cabbie can’t find a common language to speak to, they will somehow, even maybe through telepathy, reveal to you that “THE GOVERNMENT SUCKS!”


Anyway, it was a assignment to cover a contract signing between UMW Toyota and some company (hey, I did the reporting for our paper, go and read it) one some jerk o_, I mean, jack up oil rig. But, it was nice of them to bring few journalists there, a dude from The Star, and three gals from Bernama, Utusam Malaysia and The Edge (our rival) respectively.


Oh, for those who don’t know, I work for a business daily called. The Malaysian Reserve. And yes, we get lots of “reserve” puns and bad jokes from the CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and any other C_Os, you can think off.


“Hey, I thought you have enough…Reserves…from the Q&A just now, hahahaha!”


“Wah! You from Malaysian Reserve ah? Hey, you got enough reserve for the country ah? Hahahaha!”


“Where you from? [I give response] What Reserve? [My clarification] You with government ah? [My clarification, sheesh] But why Malaysian? [My explanations, while hiding my lack of patience] Reserve huh? But you say its business paper? (I fake a heart attack and rushed to hospital).”


Anyway, we had a guide, a PR guy (not girl, unfortunately) Zeff, who is one of the most unpretentious, totally politically incorrect PR person I had ever seen. Good! I told him that I don’t trust extremely polite and terribly PC PR person, and he can cut the mustard any time. He sighed in relief. But we couldn’t find any mustard to cut.


Another good thing about Zeff: He is a rocker! He recommended a place where he says, they play stuff in case you like bands like Led Zeppelin. Are you kidding, I am crazy about Led Zeppelin. Finally a rocker PR dude.


Back to our main story.


Flight to Singapore was on Monday morning (August 11, 2008) and we reached Singapore in an hours time. We had some time before ferry ride, but not too much Zeff suggested that we have fast food or something. Nobody voted for “or something” so we walked to the nearest McDonald outlet once we were out of the immigration.


After the healthy, wholesome double cheeseburger safely sent to my stomach, we got on two cabs to Harbour Front, where the ferries to Batam island are.


And that was when we had time to talk to the cabbie. The driver, a polite Malay guy in his late fifties, was more than happy to talk to me in Malay. Yes, most non-Malay Singaporeans of my generation (thirty somethings) do not speak Malay.


Like many knowledgeable, wiki-pedia rivalling cab drivers, he talked about Singaporeans and Batam….(to be continued )


Batam Ahoy Pt 2 will be written and posted as and when I am not lazy. If I am too lazy, I might drop it and write about the mysterious African Cheese cake. Bye.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight: Best Hollywood Film This Year?

I have long since stopped writing film reviews. But prompted by my fiance, I think I scribble a few words about the new Batman film we saw over the weekend The Dark Knight (TDK).

Two words: F***ing Awesome.

To me, this is the best Batman flick since 1992's Batman Returns. Comparison is inevitable, but it was done at different time by different gifted directors, both in the process of reinventing a potential franchise.

Aside: Interesting trivia: Batman Returns was to be called The Dark Knight then. Tim Burton, who directed Batman (1989) and Batman Returns, and later produced Batman Forever, was inspired by the graphic novel, The Dark Knight, when idea on a Batman film was bounced to him. Plans for a Batman movie started after the success of Superman (1978). End of aside.

Coming back to TDK. What I found most compelling in this film is the script. While Burton's take mixed gothic fantasy, Christoper Nolan (Director and co-scriptwriter of TDK) chose to spin the superhero tale in a gripping crime drama scenario with aroma of the best of Shakespearean tragedy.

There are good guys, villains, human beings and freaks. You get confused sometimes. The line on morality is thin here. Who is good? Who is bad? Who's ugly? That is the question that is frequently posed in this movie, so much so, that half way you are not even sure whatever you are doing is morally right (paying for this movie is good, trust me).

The story may be complex, but the emotion it stirs from you is enough to put you right in it. You don't care much for the story, you care a lot for all the characters in this film. That is very rare in the Hollywood films that came out from 90s onwards.

The one character that was and will be talked about is The Joker. The late Heath Ledger did an excellent job, given that he had an excellent script to work with. It's an actor proof role and you must be really bad to ruin it. Ledger did not disappoint.

Christian Bale is as good as he was in the first film. And we see him as both Batman and Wayne in either alter ego.

But I was most impressed with Gary Oldman. Playing soon to be Commissioner Gordon, he was the only straight forward good guy in this film. And playing it amidst the chaos that was going on is very tough. His role has been beefed up from the first one, and he shines here. I really enjoyed his performance in this film.

As I mentioned to someone, this film contains many soul stirring moment. All the conventions in a superhero movie is thrown out of the window, in favour of gripping Noir-ish uncertain moments, often very disturbing.

Batman have been my favourite superhero. Both Batman Returns and the campy Batman The Movie (1966) are my favourites, for different reason. And this film will challenge the contendors in my list of favourite superhero films.

One gripe: Having so used to Danny Elfman's score in the Burton films, I still have issues with the score in this and Batman Begins. But they are not a hindrance to the story telling a wonderful motion picture that is The Dark Knight.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wheels Of Fury Part 1:


Or Guide to Driving in Malaysia and be just as bad as everyone else.




I wanted this to be published in some expat magazine, giving our visitors bit of guide in driving the Malaysian way. But trouble is, I might be put under ISA for inciting dangerous driving that may result in them driving into pedestrians, dogs, frogs, cattles or Mallika Sherawat (love to). So, the blogsphere is a safer place (or so I think). Oh, the title looked like an abandoned Bruce Lee/car race movie project, so I hope you don’t mind the sub-heading. It's part one, because I may add more to it later. Or just let it be a sequel-less thingy, like Mel Brooks History of the World Part 1.


Yes, we are going to talk about driving in Malaysia here, particularly in Kuala Lumpur. So, this might be useful especially for expatriates, and those who have moved in to Malaysia’s city-of-too-many-energy-consuming-but-beautiful-lights.


As with many important articles, let me start with an important quote. Karl Marx, in summarizing the need for humanity to survive, to outlive the shortcomings, and to address the neverending quest for perfection said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Or was it Groucho Marx?


Whoever said it, the maxim applies neatly to driving in Malaysia. As you may have noticed, while Malaysians are generally friendly, hospitable and eat too many Nasi Lemak and Roti Chanai, they are aggressive, terribly selfish, emotional and, at times, self destructive when it comes to driving.


Being a Malaysian who was born, bred and forced to drive with fellow Malaysians, I would like to offer my insight on…HOW TO DRIVE LIKE MALAYSIANS (cue superhero music).



Use of lanes:


In Malaysia right lane is for overtaking, and, for a three lane road, you are supposed to use the middle unless you are overtaking. Don’t buy that. Right lane is for speeding. Shoot your way to your desired speed level and honk the guy in front of you out!


And the left lane, as you know it, is for either slow driving, mainly to lead to the next exit. Haha! Whose leg are they pulling. Left lane can be used for overtaking too. Hell, give us five lane and we will use them all for overtaking.


Its all about speed. Often, in a 80 kilometer per hour (kph) roads or highway, you can always find cars zooming at easily 130-140 kph. Never mind the fact that inflation, prices of fuel and food are going up, these people are willing to fork out their hard earned money to pay the summons. How they do it is their own business of course.


The thing is this: if they can do it, so can you!


Use of lanes: to exit


Let’s talk about the left lane. As mentioned, generally, you use it when you are slowing down, to make an exit, or when you just want to drive slowly. Essentially it is the lane to switch to so that you can make a comfortable exit.


Or so it would seem those days! Left lane are for wimps, for those lame beaten up cars and heavy vehicle that looked like they were assembled from recycle-steel factories. When you reach your exit, cut through from the middle lane straight to the exit, never mind that the slow-laners would honk at you, show fists, etc. That’s all they can do from their pathetic vehicles.


Just cut in and pretend that nothing happens. What the heck, everyone does that. In Malaysia, one our favourite moto is “If others can do, so can I-mah!”.



Parking

Parking space is becoming rare, like those animals the animal rights people are endlessly lobbying for. Unfortunately, parking space is not as hot and sexy like, say, Bengal Tiger. So, its you, your car and that valuable space.


In order to address this issue, most Malaysians resort to the dirty tactic of double parking. The poor driver in the proper parking space has to wait for the double parker to move his or her vehicle before he can move. What does it say? Double parkers are the kings.


But guess what? It’s n o longer so. No, I don’t mean to say that enforcement has gotten tighter. Not that. It is just that double parking is so yesterday, passé.


People triple park! Hah! You never thought Malaysia would go that advanced, did you? Now, triple parkers are the kings, as now you have two drivers at their mercy. All hail new kings!


Let’s face it. Malaysian’s are very optimistic and positive minded people when situation arises for them not to have to walk to their destination. The motto is: “If there is a will, there is a parking space”.


There are more, and I'd love comments and suggestions and help poor clueless foreigners to DRIVE LIKE MALAYSIANS!!! (Cue superhero music).


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